Mixing light moments with a tearful tribute to his late wife, former Kings goaltender Rogie Vachon expressed his gratitude to those who guided him along the path that on Monday finally took him through the doors of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Vachon's induction speech in Toronto included happy memories of his start in Palmarolle, Canada, and the coach who persuaded his parents to let him play for a local senior team when he was 14.
"They couldn't find a goalie crazy enough to play goal outdoors at 10 below zero," he said.
The coach went to the family farm "and tried to convince my mother and father to let me play for them, which they did," he said. "Thank you Mom and Dad and Coach Larouche. If not for that event, I would not be here tonight."
Vachon, who won 355 games and played on three Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Montreal Canadiens before he was traded to the Kings in 1971, also remembered his wife of 44 years, Nicole. She died of brain cancer in February.
"Yeah, it's tough. I wish you would be here. Sometimes it's not fair," he said, fighting to hold back tears as his three children and three grandchildren watched. "I love you, gal. I'll see you on the other side."
Also inducted Monday were Eric Lindros, former Soviet star Sergei Makarov, and the late Pat Quinn, a former Kings coach who was inducted in the builders' category.
Lindros, a burly power forward, scored 865 points in 760 games in a career cut short by head injuries. He said he still plays hockey twice a week, at age 43.
"Fun is what hockey is all about," he said.
Makarov, who played on eight world championship teams for the then-Soviet Union, didn't reach the NHL until he was 31. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, leading to a rule change limiting that trophy to players 26 or younger.
He said it would have taken him too long to acknowledge those who helped him, so he simply said, "Thank you all."
Quinn, whose achievements included coaching Canada's Olympic team to the gold medal at Salt Lake City in 2002, was represented by his daughter, Kalli. She said her father would have been surprised by the honor, and praised his love of his family and the game.